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Your Guide to On-Campus Living

September 4, 2013

Your Guide to On-Campus Living

by Abby Egan

As an incoming college student, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman experience” a million times by now. Well, think of residence halls as feeding grounds for memories and experiences you can gain outside of the college classrooms: The social atmosphere of residence halls is the most basic way to build college connections and relationships and staying on campus during freshman year is essential to receiving that crash course to how life really is on a college campus.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Making the Most of Your College’s Resources

by Abby Egan

Navigating college can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. Every school runs a little differently but most have many common resources available to all students, new and seasoned.

  • In the Residence Halls: Ever wonder who puts those pretty name tags on your door? That’s your residence advisor (RA)! They’re your immediate resource in the residence halls if you lock yourself out of your room or want to get involved in your building’s community. A step up from the RAs are the residence directors (RDs), who are the head honchos of each residence building. If your RA doesn’t know the answers to your questions, it’s likely that the RD will. Make sure you know these people and how to get in contact with them because they are always available to help.
  • In the Classrooms: In your classes, your resources are a little more obvious. Your teachers are there to guide you through the courses you’re taking with them but since many professors believe in student independence, sometimes you’ve got to figure it out on your own. Connect with your peers to help each other out with homework, group projects and other assignments – it will give you a chance to make new friends and find a study partner for finals as well. Some professors have teaching assistants (TAs) who can help you in class or out of class for tutoring if you make appointments with them. It’s important to remember that you have connections in every college situation you’re in, even the hardest of classes.
  • Outside of the Classrooms: There is an abundance of resources available to students outside of the classroom that are just waiting to be utilized, such as academic advisors, librarians, info booth attendees, peer advisors, tutors, admissions tour guides and even the registrar workers. Colleges are full of helpful people who are there to make sure you have the best experience and achieve your goals while you’re enrolled. The best part about these resources is that if they can’t help you or answer your questions, then 9 times out of 10 they know who to connect you with so that you can get the help and answers you need.
  • Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Common Roommate Problems

October 29, 2007

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you are planning to move out of your parent’s house when you go back to school, you are probably going to have one or more roommates. Unique challenges often arise when living with roommates, so it’s a good idea to learn about common roommate problems before you become one. By doing so, you will be able to take steps to exhibit the traits of a good roommate. This knowledge will also help you recognize and resolve conflicts.

Some of the most common roommate problems include:

  • Borrowing personal items without permission
  • Eating other person’s food
  • Messy living habits
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Lack of respect for each other’s personal space
  • Unwillingness to compromise
  • Immodest behavior

Allowing such behaviors to go unchecked can permanently damage roommate relationships, and can make a living situation unbearable. It’s a good idea to establish roommate rules at the very beginning of the relationship for the sake of avoiding roommate problems before they have a chance to develop.

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Roommates , Tips

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by Agnes Jasinski

It's a few months into your freshman year, and the homesickness may be setting in. Or you've found yourself at war with your first college roommate, who sneaks snacks from your cupboard when you're hard at work studying in the library.

So much of what you learn before you head off to college is related to the more rigorous academics you'll be tackling, or all the paperwork you need to fill out to make sure your financial aid application is filed completely and on time. These things are very important, and you will be faced with new adult-like responsibilities once you're on that campus. But what about the things your guidance counselors don't tell you?

Harlan Cohen, who wrote the book "The Naked Roommate, and 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College," has been making the rounds the last few weeks to inform college students - and their parents - that a few bumps in the road are normal. He describes the more realistic picture of the first one, even two, years of college as years of "discomfort," and that students will come across situations they may not have been prepared to encounter: that overly-rambunctious roommate that stays up late and keeps you awake, or the fact that you thought it'd be way easier to make friends on a campus of more than 20,000 students, all around your age.

Cohen suggests that getting through those difficult times will only make you stronger. The bad memories you may think you're collecting now will slowly become good memories, as one day we nearly guarantee you'll be talking about the "good old days" of attending college. The uneasiness you feel now will subside, and you'll start finding your niche. Take advantage of what college campuses have to offer, because chances are, there's something for every kind of student, no matter how diverse their interests. Some of Cohen's suggestions have included speaking up to disruptive or inappropriate roommates, taking care of yourself to avoid falling into a physical, mental or emotional slump, and forcing yourself to get our of your comfort zone somethings by joining a new student group or making connections with classmates.

Browse through our site for more tips on transitioning into that first year of a new college lifestyle and dealing with common roommate problems. Chances are the things you're experiencing are pretty universal, and easily remedied with a little faith that things will get better and giving yourself enough time to adapt to a new life on campus.


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Most Expensive College Dorms

November 5, 2009

by Emily

Tuition and fees aren't the only college costs families are finding hard to swallow these days. Room and board is also on the rise--now nearing $16,000 a year at some colleges. A survey of the most expensive college dorms found that students attending The New School's Eugene Lang College in New York City can expect to pay more than any other college students in the nation for standard-option housing and a meal plan, at $15,990 per year.

Rounding out the top five were Cooper Union in New York City, at $15,275; Suffolk University in Boston, at $14,544; the University of California at Berkeley, at $14,384; and the New York Institute of Technology at Manhattan, at $14,290. By contrast, the average college room and board costs for 2009-2010 were $8,193 at public four-year schools and $9,363 for private colleges. Students who want extras can expect to pay a lot more--to get an idea of how much, check out the New York Times' run-through of a few of the swankiest college living arrangements that have debuted recently on three campuses.

The list of the top 20 was largely dominated by schools in cities with high costs of living, where housing costs of $12,000 to $16,000 per year might not seem all that unreasonable. However, when you consider the fact that these costs are for a standard double room without any extravagant extras, students may still want to see if they can get a better deal living off-campus. It's possible to pay a comparable price to on-campus room and board for your own bedroom in many locations, and considering college students' general ingenuity when it comes to apartment penny-pinching and packing people into houses and apartments, living off-campus could very well be a cheaper option than the dorms, regardless of where you attend college.

However, living off-campus isn't always the best or cheapest option, even if the hefty price tag for a shared room and mediocre dorm food offends your sensibilities. Before you decide where to live (if you're given that option--some colleges require students to live on-campus all four years), come up with a sample budget, taking into account realistic costs for housing, food, maintenance, and commuting to and from campus. For example, don't budget for walking 20 blocks each way in the winter or eating nothing but ramen and leftover cookies you snag from your department's faculty meetings, unless that's really how you intend to live. Think about what you're giving up, as well--easy trips to class, free cleaning services, and a close sense of campus community. If you're not saving much by living off-campus, perhaps those things will encourage you to stay.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many colleges and universities offer students dorms particular to their fields of study. A future engineer can bunk with others interested in engineering, for example, or future educators may find a place for others interested in becoming teachers. The dorms then become learning communities, and allow students a built-in support network when they're struggling with homework or an upcoming exam.

Some schools, however, have been experimenting with communal living for interests outside of students' majors, perhaps to get more students interested in those colleges, keep students already enrolled happy, or to get students to live in the dorms beyond their first years. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the kinds of dorm communities that are cropping up on college campuses across the country, and they're as diverse as students' interests come.

At the University of Vermont, students interested in healthy eating, anime or Harry Potter are able to live in dorms set aside for students with those interests. (According to The Chronicle, The Harry Potter dorm caters more to those interested in social justice issues, and how "magic is symbolic for an individual's ability to change the world." It couldn't be all fun.) Students at the school must come with proposals of their own for the special interest dorms to take shape, and find student leaders who will come up with extracurricular activities and collaborate with faculty advisers.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, themed dorms explore the less academic side of science. The 160 or so students who live in the learning communities are able to find dorms based on their interests in humor, robotics, space colonization, and the science of food, according to The Chronicle. Faculty members, who say the students living in the themed dorms are more engaged in their learning able to converse about academic subjects more easily than their peers, meet with the students once a week. At Ball State University, students from all majors interested in film, video, and emerging media, are able to live in a dorm that provides them with all of the technical equipment they would need to shoot projects on their own time. The dorm cost the school about $60,000 to renovate and equip.

What kinds of themed dorms, if any, does your school offer undergraduates? Do you like the idea, or do you think students should live with others who have more varied interests? Let us know what you think about the specialized dorms.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Many of you have already made your decisions on the school you’ll be attending come fall. The next step (outside of the obvious, determining how you’ll pay for that choice and evaluating your financial aid letter) will be figuring out where you’ll be living once you’re on your chosen campus.

Many colleges will require freshmen to live in dorms, to build a sense of community and give those first-year students better access to campus offerings and guidance. You’ve probably heard quite a bit about communal living already, either through older siblings’ roommate horror stories or warnings of consuming too many calories in the dorm cafeterias. A number of recent articles have taken a lighter approach to dorm living, looking at the unique options you may have when determining where you’ll be spending most of your time come fall. (You may remember reading about college students demanding more from their dorms; it seems like schools are taking notice.)

One article in The New York Times took a look at dorm rooms that came with “bragging rights” and an air of celebrity about them. While wait lists for them are typically high, some students discover only after they’ve moved in that they’re bunking in the same space as a former politician, celebrity, or historical figure. Princeton University in particular has quite a few of these famous spaces—Michelle Obama had a single room there, and four freshmen currently live in Adlai E. Stevenson’s old room. (The school razed the building where James Stewart spent his evenings.) Yale University boasts Anderson Cooper’s and Paul Giamatti’s old rooms. While colleges are often hesitant to disclose where famous alums lived while attending their schools, the article suggests it’s not too hard to figure out using old yearbooks, and the Times piece alone discloses quite a few of the celebs’ previous addresses.

For those who would rather bring a furry friend from home to college than boast of their rooms’ history, a number of colleges have become more amendable to allowing students to bring the family pet to live with them in the dorms. Another recent Times article took a look at the trend, as colleges begin setting aside dorms specifically for pet owners. The dorms include daycare facilities for when students are in class—although hours are limited to prevent pet neglect—and other amenities staffed by work-study students interested in working with animals. According to that article, about a dozen colleges currently have policies allowing pets access to the dorms. Typically, the policies are limited to cats and small- to average-sized dogs.

What kinds of things will you be considering when you’re ready to make your housing choice? Are you looking for a more traditional dorm room experience, without the frills or additional options now offered by colleges?


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by Agnes Jasinski

If you’re an incoming freshman new to the idea of communal living, there’s something you should know. You may not be instant best friends with your new roommate. Random pairings are just that: random. And a recent article in The New York Times describes just how bad new undergraduates have gotten at managing even the minutest problems. 

According to the article, students are getting more passive aggressive, using technology and social networking to vent rather than confronting an annoying roommate. One director of housing says students text one another while they’re in the same room rather than talking out a disagreement. Or their complaints will go “public” via Facebook, with the other roommate finding out on the website that there’s trouble brewing in their living space. Students won’t even tell noisy dorm-mates to quiet down, according to a recent focus group at North Carolina State University.

Another problem is more parents getting involved in the conflicts, rather than the students handling their roommate issues themselves, according to the article. Most colleges have mediation services or resident advisers at the ready to handle these problems, but few students take advantage.

But there are ways to make a mismatch work. If you’re aware of the common roommate problems before you move in, like borrowing personal items without the roommate’s permission or messy living habits, you may be more prepared to handle them. If you think you may be the problem, it may be time for a bit of self-reflection. It’s probably not a bad idea, for example, to learn how to not eat food that isn’t yours. 

If it gets really bad, most colleges have systems in place that allow students to swap out their roommates. At Loyola University in Chicago, students are able to move out of their rooms if they find other students to trade places with them, according to the Times article. The school gives unhappy roommates a little help with organized “swap nights,” where they are able to meet other students looking for improved living situations. The University of Florida has introduced the Facebook tool RoomBug as a move away from random assignments. The application allows students to give more detailed responses on what they’d like to see in a roommate, and to match themselves with profiles they feel may be a good fit. Whatever your situation, don’t take a failed roommate situation too personally. By sophomore year, more than 70 percent of freshman year roommates are no longer living together, choosing instead to bunk with friends they make freshman year.


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Meet Your New Floormate: Your Professor

University of Houston Encourages Interaction Between Students and Faculty

November 29, 2010

Meet Your New Floormate: Your Professor

by Alexis Mattera

Now that the tryptophan has worn off (we hope!), it’s time to get back to work and start preparing for finals. But would doing so be easier or more difficult if your professor lived down the hall?

University of Houston freshmen have been testing these waters since move-in day when associate professor of history Raul Ramos, his wife, their two sons and their dogs started calling the new Cougar Village dormitory “home.” Their relocation is part of the university's efforts to engage students by encouraging more informal interactions with faculty. Ramos and his family aren't alone, either: Two other faculty members – Catherine Horn and Carroll Parrott Blue – have also taken advantage of on-campus housing.

Provost John Antel believes this initiative will make the campus more personal – "We're a big, urban research university," he said. "It can be intimidating." – and increase the amount of students living on campus: Long known as a commuter school, UH currently has about 6,500 of its 38,750 students living on campus but its target is 8,500. University officials believe it will ultimately improve graduation rates and de-mystify academic life. "As a professor, you know the first year is critical," Ramos said. "Students don't know that one mistake can take two years to fix. One mistake that first year, and you're graduating in six or seven years instead of four."

The idea may seem novel but UH isn’t the first school to promote student-faculty interaction – Rice University places faculty members and their families in each housing complex on campus, as do other universities – yet I’m interested in seeing the long-term results. If there are any UH students in the audience, has having professors living in the residence halls changed the way you study, behave or view your future? We’d love a first-hand account!


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Got Stress?

Annual Study Shows College Freshmen are Overwhelmed but Optimistic

January 27, 2011

Got Stress?

by Alexis Mattera

A student’s first year in college is one rife with new experiences and challenges. We have plenty of info on our site to help ease that transition – from dealing with common roommate problems to overcoming writer's block in college essays to beating the winter blues – but it looks like members of the class of 2014 are having more difficult times adjusting to the college lifestyle.

An annual study found 51.9 percent of first-year, full-time students reported their emotional health was above average. That may not seem so bad but lead author, UCLA's John Pryor, said this figure is a "fairly alarming" 3.4 percentage points lower than last year and the lowest since the inaugural study in 1985 when 63.6 percent reported feeling above average. Despite these record-low levels of emotional health, about 73 percent of students surveyed generally expressed positive attitudes toward higher education, even as they struggle to fund it because they believe it will help their future earning power.

But why the disparity between low emotional health and high expectations? It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific reason but Marcus Hotaling, chairman of mental health for the American College Health Association, has a theory: When the study began in 1985, he said, many students with mental health issues did not get into college but today, they are able to pursue post-secondary degrees because of improved medication, reduced stigmas and a greater willingness to share concerns with others. "Students are more attuned to who they are, what they're dealing with, and that there's help out there," said Hotaling.

First-time college students, do you share the sentiments of the students surveyed or is your freshman year shaping up to be one of the best years of your life thus far?


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